Disadvantages of Office Superheroes


Are you the office superhero? You know, when there’s a problem is it you that always steps in to save the day? Whether it’s something only you know how to do properly or perhaps a customer complainant that needs your special touch? Isn’t it you your staff turn to when things look like they’re heading towards a disaster?

Believe it or not, superheroes are more common than you think. Sadly though, it’s not a compliment. In truth, it’s a behaviour that afflicts many small business owners and inevitably, it holds their businesses back.

If you’re the type of boss that still believes they do most jobs better than everyone else, sorts out all of the problems and is ultimately responsible for all the decisions, then it’s not resources, nor timing, nor lack of money preventing your business growth – it’s you!

That’s not to say it’s an ego thing; after all the business is your baby and it’s understandable to feel the need to protect it. There’s also no issue with being enthusiastic. There is however, a problem if your enthusiasm to be involved in every project is proving to be a bottleneck and preventing the growth of the people around you.

The reality is that one person can only do so much, and your business needs to grow beyond the constraints of your time. Acclaimed business school, Cranfield University, has conducted research which found that over 85% of an entrepreneur’s day is spent on routine tasks (you know, the ones that most other people could do). So, learning to step away from the day-to-day activities of the business will undoubtedly free up time for you to become more strategic and provide you with the opportunity to take your business to the next level.

Working on the business, not in the business

Becoming more strategic will require you to do less but coach more and instil confidence in your team that you trust them to get things done.  Maybe not always the way you would but at the end of the day, if the customer is happy, then you should be too.

Owner-managers can be guilty of ‘meddling’ unnecessarily with competent people; Cranfield’s research found that 60% of senior staff in small firms left within two years of their appointment due to frustration.  Instead, you need to hire people that have the right attitude, train them and then let them get on with it!

Of course, this is easier said than done; how on earth do you get to this stage?

For starters, there’s an internationally recognised quality management standard that can help with this; it’s called ISO 9001. Whilst the standard sets out the requirements for you to put together a Quality Management System, crucially, it also enables you to create a framework of processes and procedures so that your people know what to do, how to do it and when. We all talk about ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’; this is how you can make that happen.

For you, the owner-manager struggling to let go, it’s about releasing responsibility and empowering your staff to challenge the status quo for the benefit of efficiency and consistency. Not only is this good news for you and your people in terms of morale and productivity, ultimately this should lead to a better customer experience too.

Many think of ‘processes’ as bureaucracy. However, in reality, it’s what separates the ‘big boys’ from the wannabes.  How do you think big companies deliver excellent service time after time?  Without good processes, motivated people and consistency, you’re really only trusting to luck.

Standards like ISO 9001 can’t turn your business into the prefect organisation but it will bring you consistency with traceability. So when things do go wrong (and occasionally they will), you’ll have the ability to trace back and identify whether you have a process problem or a person problem.

If it’s process, you can quickly fix it and communicate the change and if it’s a person problem then fine, let’s do some training and coaching. That way you’ll prevent a similar situation happening again.

Cranfield’s research goes on to say that two-thirds of owner-managed companies have no written plan at all!  If you recognise yourself here, do yourself a favour. Focus on the things only you need to do and with the time you save, train and coach your people to do the rest. Then get busy with some strategic thinking. Ditch being a superhero, the future belongs to those that plan for it!

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